Friday, July 27, 2012

Carroll city officials measured a much-improved water level Thursday afternoon as residents appear to be heeding request for conservation.

Whether the water-use restraint is a result of civic responsibility or a recognition of the futility of trying to green grass in a 50-year drought is an open question.

“Good question — it’s one or the other,” said Public Works director Randy Krauel.

At 2:30 p.m. Thursday the aquifer level for the city’s eight wells measured 80 feet, 4 inches below surface. The aquifer reached a recent low of 84 feet below surface on July 17, and on Monday was at 83 feet below surface. Emergency water policies trigger at 86 feet below surface.

“We may still need to get to restrictions, but so far it’s OK,” Krauel said.

On July 9, the city pumped 1.9 million gallons of water. That compares with about 1.2 million in the winter months. On Thursday, the Carroll Water Department pumped 1.28 million gallons, and the water tower was able to recharge between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. when many automatic irrigations systems start. The city’s one water tower holds 500,000 gallons.

“There must have been some change with people’s irrigation habits,” Krauel said.

Carroll is located at the southeastern end of the Dakota. The ideal situation, Krauel said, would be for rain to hit locally to reduce usage levels here for a time as rains in South Dakota and Minnesota and northwest Iowa recharge the aquifer. He warned that many months remain before winter.

Area cities are also closely monitoring water levels.

The Denison Municipal Utilities has asked residents to voluntarily reduce usage. Specifically, the utility is calling for a suspension of lawn watering and minimal use for shrubs as well as no car washing at home.

Denison pumps far more water than Carroll because of the presence of the meatpacking industry, a high end user of water with little flexibility in use, said Jack Webb, manager of water services for the Denison Municipal Utilities. Denison’s high pumping level this week hit 3.8 million gallons a day after being at 4.1 million gallons just a week earlier.

Webb said no formal conservation measures are in place. The utility is simply seeking cooperation from residents. He said the water level is not critical at the utility’s 11 shallow wells near the Boyer River. But city officials are concerned about the trend line and weather forecasts.

The West Central Rural Iowa Water Association in Manning has asked members for voluntary conservation measures, said Templeton Mayor Ken Behrens.

Last week, the association requested that Templeton fill its 100,000-gallon water tower only at night, when usage is lower. And this week, the rural water provider has asked for volunteer measures, such as limited lawn and landscape watering.

“We have been asked by them to start a voluntary program,” Behrens said, adding that information on the program is going out in water bills.

Many residents already have stopped irrigating their lawns, he said.

“You’re paying a lot to keep a lawn semi green, if that,” Behrens said.

Coon Rapids Municipal Utilities talked about the water situation internally this week but reports no problems and adequate levels, city officials there said this morning.